Ravaged by wildfires, Chile’s national botanic garden seeks to regrow

By Thomson Reuters Feb 9, 2024 | 5:07 AM

SANTIAGO (Reuters) – After deadly fast-moving wildfires tore through central Chile, killing at least 131 people last week, most of the country’s National Botanic Garden in the coastal city of Vina del Mar was left in ashes.

An employee at the garden was killed, along with three of her family members. Alejandro Peirano, the garden’s director, said two of the garden’s three zones were completely destroyed.

Now, help is pouring in from around the world to help the garden regrow. Peirano said he was in contact with botanic gardens across Europe, with aid coming in from Japan and France, among others.

A contingent of veterinarians from Chile’s University of the Americas has been checking on turtles, ducks and other animals injured in the fire.

“Some (turtles) have a lot of injuries, others are healthy,” said Paola Bastidas, one of the veterinarians. “The idea is to separate them to give them the necessary treatment so they can go on with their lives.”

The 400-hectare (988-acre) garden dates back over a century and was noted for its biodiversity. Only a part of the historic zone in the garden survived the fire, Peirano said.

“Everyone who has had some sort of relationship with us is supporting us,” Peirano said. “We realize the botanic garden had more importance than we knew.”

(Reporting by Jorge Vega; Writing by Alexander Villegas; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)